Tonight is Fat Tuesday.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday.
Tomorrow evening, theGATHERING community will observe Ash Wednesday with our ASHES service at 8:00PM in the Chapel. Ash Wednesday is a symbol. As with all symbols, one needs to know why. Here is a prayer and a few reasons why we're going to set aside this time together tomorrow.
Oh Lord and Master of my life!
Take from me the spirit of sloth, faint-heartedness,
lust of power and idle talk.
But give me rather the spirit of chastitiy, humility,
patience and love to my servant.
Yeah, O Lord and King!
Grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brother;
for thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen St. Ephrem the Syrian
1. Ash Wednesday is a part of something bigger
In the "You're Great! You're Wonderful! and Everybody loves you!" world of self-esteem motivation, I need to be reminded (on a consistent basis) that the world doesn't revolve around me. For centuries before the Reformation and after it, Christians have corporately gathered around Ash Wednesday in order to fast, be reminded of their humanity and look forward to the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Ash Wednesday is a shadow, but the substance is Christ. As with all symbols, the tendency is to selfishly go through the motions without realizing what's behind the symbolism. Participating in ASHES will serve to remind us that we're apart of a greater story of redemption.
2. Ash Wednesday has the rhythms of the gospel.
Man was created out of the dust of the earth. Throughout scripture, dust and ashes are associated with the frailty of our humanity. In addition to being created out of dust, we're burdened with the weight of our sin and shame. It is in this realization--brevity of life and weight of sin--that we're able to have our affections stirred toward our only hope--Jesus. With a correct estimation of ourselves and our end, we're able to glory in the hope that is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The sinless life of Christ, the cross of Christ--that He died for the ungodly--absorbs wrath, dies our death and gives life to the dust of our lives through the resurrection. Ash Wednesday, as the picture depicts, plants the seeds of the gospel--"Sin is my greatest evil, but you oh Lord are my greatest good."
3. Ash Wednesday is raw.
As image bearers, God created us with emotion. Instead of being ruled by our emotions, the Spirit of God informs our emotions with truth. On Ash Wednesday, we're confronted once again with gravity of our offense against a holy God because of sin. When is the last time that you went to a worship service where you corporately were encouraged to mourn and lament? The reality of the Christian life is that we all hurt. Read some of David's laments in the Psalms. When we're hurting and are sorrowful we can be raw with what is going on inside of us instead of putting on the happy face. Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent allow us to acknowledge that the world around us is broken.
4. Ash Wednesday is about the body of Christ.
It is one thing to worship Christ as an individual. It is a whole new thing to be a part of a greater body that is centering around the same text, the same theme in Scripture and the same season. Instead of waiting until the Passion week to focus on the cross and resurrection as a body, what if we created the space within our schedule to press in as a corporate body? What if we experienced this Season of Lent together? Ash Wednesday helps us set that stage together, as a body.
5. Ash Wednesday and Lent are about fasting.
Many people will be fasting on Ash Wednesday. Others will be giving up something for the season of Lent. Why? If it is only about a check list of giving something up, then it misses the point of preparation and contemplation on the cross. Yet, if the point of the fast is to have our affections stirred for Jesus... then by all means, set aside tomorrow to fast. If you haven't grown in this discipline, you may want to fast from one meal and spend time praying instead. Pray through Isaiah 53 and insert your name, walk through Psalm 51 or recite back to the Lord Joel 2 in preparation for our time together. Tomorrow we'll will be giving you some resources to help you better prepare for the remaineder of Lent.
Beyond all of these things, please continue to pray that the Lord stirs our affections for Jesus. As we realize that we are but dust, beg the Spirit of God to stir a greater love, devotion, appreciation... to grant us a greater glimpse of what it means that God made Jesus to absorb our wrath, give us righteousness and call us sons and daughters!
Jesus is All,